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Microsoft, the EU, and Anti-trust: Is Google Next?

The EU legal system seems to headed towards a final ruling that Microsoft engages in anti-competitive behavior.  As CNET notes the $689 million fine is not as important as upholding “sanctions against Microsoft’s tying together of software and refusal to give rival makers of office servers information to enable their products to work smoothly with Windows, used by 95 percent of computers.” (Just take a look at MS’s balance sheet to see how small the fine is for MS). Although I am not an anti-trust person, I can see the concern. Here, however, the EU’s lawyer offers “‘A market level of much less than 95 percent would be a way of measuring success … You can’t draw a line and say exactly 50 (percent) is correct, but a significant drop in market share is what we would like to see.'” Short of a break-up, I am not sure how the EU will try to effect “a significant drop in market share.” 

In addition, here is some food on which to chew, what about Google? According to some studies “Google had a 71.6% share of the global search engine market, an 80.2% share of the UK search engine market, and a 78.4% share of the French search engine market.” (period August 1, 2006, to January 20, 2007). In the U.S. market alone Google seems also to fit the general profile that the EU worries about:

Rank  Search Engine  Volume 
1.  www.google.com  64.14% 
2.  search.yahoo.com  22.88% 
3.  search.msn.com  6.59% 
4.  www.ask.com  3.35% 

Source – Hitwise – August, 2007 – based on volume of searches.

Put differently as Mike, Frank, and I, have noted in various ways here –and Siva Vaidhyanathan among others have argued elsewhere–Google may present problems as troubling as Microsoft’s dominance. Then again, none of this will matter until Google and Microsoft merge after the governments of the world say they are in different markets and approve the deal.